Will North and South Korea build their own path to peace?

September 19, 2018

Today’s news that Kim Jong-un has agreed to shut down one of North Korea’s main missile testing and launch sites and the two Korean leaders “agreed on a way to achieve denuclearisation” is the third step towards reconciliation and peace taken by President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Read [FULL TEXT] Panmunjeon Declaration

In April the Korea Times reported that the leaders had signed the “Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” in which they made it clear there would be no more war on the peninsula and that a new era of peace has begun (read on here)..

CNN reported New US sanctions against North Korea on September 13th. They were aimed at two Chinese information technology companies, which are North Korean-controlled, according to the US Treasury Department, which alleged that the Russia-based company Volasys Silver Star and China-based China Silver Star had been violating US sanctions.

Despite this and other tensions, on September 12th, the Straits Times reported that North and South Korea will open a joint liaison office at the site of the Kaesong industrial complex, where for about a decade, South Korean companies ran production lines staffed by North Korean workers at the industrial park. A South Korean delegation discussed this in June with North Korean officials at the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

Seoul said the office will become operational –  working to improve cross-border communications and exchanges – immediately after the opening ceremony on Friday, September 14th. Ri Son Gwon, the head of North Korea’s delegation said, “The two sides are now able to take a large step toward peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean peninsula by quickly and frankly discussing issues arising from inter-Korean relations”.

The office is a significant move in thawing relations between the two countries, and follows a meeting this month between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and a South Korean presidential envoy and Mr Trump’s warm reaction to a personal letter from Mr Kim offering a second summit with the US.

The two Koreas previously communicated by fax and special telephone lines, which were often severed when their relations took a turn for the worse. Seoul’s patient and persistent unification ministry said the office would become a “round-the-clock consultation and communication channel” for advancing inter-Korean relations, improving ties between the US and the North, and easing military tensions.

If North and South Korea succeed in building their path to peace they could encourage other fractured regions to do so.

Will the Indian sub-continent also begin to act in its people’s best interests?

 

 

 

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Glimpses of Kofi Annan’s work for the United Nations and African agriculture

August 20, 2018

 

Amongst the tributes to Ghanaian-born Kofi Annan is one from Alec Russell, the comment and analysis editor of the Financial Times

Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general (1997 to 2006), was at the helm of the UN during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US, and the subsequent invasion of Iraq by a US-led coalition, which came despite his diplomatic efforts to stave off conflict. His opposition to that war led to a rupture with Washington.

Hella Pick in the Guardian adds that though Annan was by nature a conciliator, a “diplomat’s diplomat”, he also had the courage of his convictions and stuck to his guns even when powerful UN members urged retreat.

“A notable example was his intervention in Baghdad in 1998 to defuse a crisis over UN arms inspections in Iraq, where he went ahead with negotiations, against strong pressure from Washington to stay away; and he spoke out against the US invasion of 2003. Similarly, he defied Britain and the US when he negotiated with Libya to end a security council stalemate over the Lockerbie bombing”.

Alec Russell adds that Kofi Annan was criticised by some when, as head of UN peacekeeping operations in 1994, he was accused of ignoring warnings from his own mission about the impending genocide in Rwanda in which up to 1m people were killed in a matter of months.

He was also in charge of the UN during the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, a humanitarian programme to relieve the impact of sanctions on ordinary Iraqis that ended in widespread abuse and corruption.

In retirement, he served as a UN special envoy for Syria and sought to intervene in Myanmar where the government has been accused of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. 

Less well known were his efforts to improve the efficiency of agriculture in Africa

The Kofi Annan Foundation was set up in 2007 to work for a fairer and more peaceful world. One of its projects furthered his dream, which was, Russell added, to transform the lot of Africa’s smallholders so that the world’s poorest continent could feed itself:

“No farmer went unquizzed as we toured smallholdings on the rust-red earth at a blistering pace”.

Seeing agriculture as crucial to lifting tens of millions out of poverty and contributing to wider development goals, he told the FT in 2011. While much of the continent is amazingly fertile, agriculture has long been hobbled by poor infrastructure and transport, meaning that many countries cannot feed their populations, let alone export. The only way Africa could reduce hunger, he concluded, was by increasing food production:

“Africa imports $75bn worth of food each year. For a continent with all the land we have, it’s just intolerable.” Annan urged the US and Europe to remove farm subsidies to help African farmers compete on a level playing field. More detail in a report from a 2017 Malawian newspaper here.

Annan also spearheaded the fight against the HIV/Aids epidemic, which was particularly severe in his own continent and he championed the Millennium Development Goals designed to prod governments into reaching minimum standards of health, education and gender equality.

In 2000, a report from an independent commission chaired by Ingvar Carlsson found the UN culpable of weak management and oversight during his time in charge – a time when it was overstretched due to America’s failure to pay its dues. But as the late John Ferguson said in his highly recommended book, Not Them But Us: In Praise of The United Nations:

ferguson 2 not them but us cover (2)“People tend to talk about the UN as `them’. But the UN is not `them’; it is `us’. The UN has no existence apart from the nations which compose it. The Secretary-General and his staff are there to fulfil the decisions of the nations, no less and no more.

“U Thant, the first Asian to hold that office, wrote in his memoirs: `There is a widespread illusion that the Secretary-General is comparable to the head of a government. He is often criticized for failure to take an action – when over 130 sovereign member states collectively fail to act.

“The plain fact is that the United Nations and the Secretary-General have none of the attributes of sovereignty and no independent power.’ So if you hear anyone saying `The UN has failed,’ say to them, `I’m glad you admit your failure. Now what are you going to do about it?” We are the UN; its failures are our failures and its successes are our successes . . . “

 

 

 

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Consensus: conflicts in South Asia will only be resolved by political means

August 13, 2018

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In his election manifesto Pakistan’s prime minister in waiting, Imran Khan, said that his party, Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), will move ahead ‘substantively’ on the bilateral strategic dialogue with India.

He recognises that for lasting peace within the region, especially with its neighbour India, conflict resolution and the security route to cooperation is the most viable. PTI will work on a blueprint towards resolving the Kashmir issue within the parameters of UN Security Council resolutions.

All aspects of the strategic nuclear deterrence will be addressed so as to prevent a spiralling nuclear arms race in the region.

PTI will push for the principle of non-discrimination in all arms control and disarmament measures, including global nuclear disarmament.

Early in July U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a surprise visit to Afghanistan, promised support for President Ashraf Ghani’s bid to start peace talks with the Taliban

He said that the United States would be willing to join the talks. However a week later Reuters reported that the Taliban have rejected talks which would include the government of President Ashraf Ghani, which they see as illegitimate and instead insisted they would only talk with the United States.

The US has refused to talk to the Taliban ever since the Afghan government failed to hand over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The un-named author of FT View, two weeks later, said that it is time to bring the Taliban ‘inside the tent’

S/he comments that, initially, the US stance stemmed from hubris — an enduring and fateful characteristic of nearly two centuries of Afghan expeditions. They expected to defeat the Taliban swiftly and completely and though the US military has abandoned the hope of a swift end to the war, it clings on to its belief that victory is possible, if only more resources were made available.

The first attempt after 9/11 to gather competing Afghan groups to sit down and talk in Bonn in 2001 led to a reasonable outline for a new Afghan state. The Taliban, however, were not invited to the meeting in Bonn, nor to the jirgas or plebiscites, held afterwards in Afghanistan to legitimise the agreements made there. FT View writes that the Taliban have been exacting revenge for their exclusion ever since.

Today, FT View states, the Taliban control or contest more than 40% of the country and civilian fatalities in 2018 have hit a record high, adding, “However hard it will be, it is time to bring them inside the tent”.

It adds that most Afghans have welcomed the NATO forces because of their state’s weakness and the security force’s frailties. Yet they have always understood that the insurgency, here as elsewhere, would only be resolved by political not military means.

The FT reflects that Gen Nicholson, who has spent much of the past 10 years building relationships with Afghans of all factions, is widely respected in that country. Is it too much to hope that he could work with a team including Imran Khan?

Afghanistan’s Ambassador Shaida Mohammad Abdali yesterday welcomed Mr Khan’s victory statement: “We hope that the positive speeches that Imran Khan gave on his victory day will be realised by practical steps that we will also see in the future”. 

 

 

 

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Peace accord brings hope to the Horn of Africa

July 21, 2018

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Poor economic prospects, repression and military conscription made Eritrea one of Africa’s biggest sources of refugees bound for Europe.

David Pilling, noted author and FT columnist reports a ‘diplomatic turnround’ which has taken place with far-reaching consequences for the region and beyond, commenting, “Yet no one outside the continent has paid much attention”. Abiy Ahmed, the recently elected young Ethiopian prime minister has transformed the atmosphere in a country that had been beset by years of civil strife.

The two men later met and signed a peace agreement that brings to an end a 20-year stand-off since the bloody conflict of 1998-2000. Pilling adds that the accord was made possible largely due to the forward thinking of Mr Abiy, at 41 Africa’s youngest leader, who offered to cede land in accordance with a peace deal that was never implemented.

The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea signed the accord and later marked the diplomatic thaw between their once-warring nations with hugs and warm words in front of an ecstatic crowd at a concert celebrating the end of one of Africa’s longest conflicts.

Jane Flanagan (the Times) describes a visibly moved Isaias Afwerki addressing thousands of jubilant well-wishers in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on his first visit to the country in 22 years. As he was welcomed by flag-waving Ethiopians chanting his name, he said: “Hate, discrimination and conspiracy is now over. No one can steal the love we have regained now. Now is the time to make up for the lost times.”

Mr Isaias’s visit followed one made to his capital by Abiy Ahmed, prime minister of Ethiopia, when the leaders signed a historic five-point declaration to end a border war that has claimed 100,000 lives. They used their second summit to commit to restoring trade and transport links and reopening embassies.

“The reconciliation we are forging now is an example to people across Africa and beyond,” Mr Abiy said.

In a speech at the weekend to welcome Mr Isaias, Mr Abiy said: “We have finally found our sister nation after many years of hiding.” The summit culminated in a celebration of music and dance last night at the Millennium Hall, attended by 25,000 ticket holders.

David Pilling noted some of the real and immediate practical implications of the deal:

  • Daily flights between the two capitals, operated by Ethiopian Airlines, will start next week.
  • The unblocking of telephone lines between the neighbouring states led to emotional reunions between families and friends who had been separated for decades, events compared to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • Eritrea’s economic outlook should improve.
  • Landlocked Ethiopia will get access to two Eritrean ports, giving it an alternative to shipping goods in and out of Djibouti.

Alongside developments in African countries including Zimbabwe and Angola, it will be another sign of potential political rejuvenation on the continent and if the peace deal holds, the international community should stand ready to engage.

Pilling adds that observers say if the peace deal holds it could help to stabilise neighbouring Somalia. The benefits could reach far north, because an end to conflict and repression in Eritrea could reduce the number of its citizens migrating to Europe.

 

 

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Air Commodore Alastair Mackie, CBE, DFC and Bar, RAF pilot and CND campaigner: an appreciation

June 26, 2018

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In the 1980s Alistair Mackie signed the Just Defence Charter and, after reaffirming support by email on 15/01/2009, agreed to be placed on the C3000 mailing list. The editor now regrets that his e-messages were not saved, most being a few appreciative words whenever CND’s work was mentioned.

Appointed acting pilot officer in 1941, he was staying at The Royal Empire Society, now the Royal Commonwealth Society, near St James’s Palace. Unable to sleep, he made his way to the roof, saw the capital ablaze from an air raid and vowed to hit back.

In June 1944, during the Normandy landings, Mackie dropped soldiers and supplies from his Dakota aircraft, avoiding intense anti-aircraft fire. Other incidents of bravery and initiative are described in the Telegraph obituary (paywall, see text in link to Bruce Kent’s post).

In the 1950s, when Alastair Mackie was commanding a Royal Air Force squadron of nuclear-armed Vulcan bombers, the Times obituary reports, he realised that the degree of target accuracy in the radar assisted Vulcan was irrelevant – with nuclear weapons the area of destruction would be vast.

After moving to a senior role at the Ministry of Defence and seeing political machinations at close quarters, Mackie became a staunch critic of the government’s nuclear policy and vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). He felt that nuclear weapons were incompatible with his Christian faith and resigned from RAF at the age of 45, (see Bruce Kent’s CND post which includes the Telegraph obituary).

Mackie remained convinced that Britain’s nuclear strategy was ineffective, immoral and wasteful. In a 2009 letter to The Times he called Trident a “stick-on hairy chest virility symbol”.

His first book was Some of the People all the Time (Book Guild Publishing in 2006) and this post ends with a reflection in the memoirs of his service with the RAF, Flying Scot: An Airman’s Story.(2012):

“Man’s inhumanity to man has given place to man’s suicidal inhumanity to the planet . . . My shame at having been part of it as a Vulcan pilot is mitigated only by decades of membership of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.”

Alistair Mackie: born on August 3, 1922, died on May 19, 2018

 

 

 

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The Myanmar peace process

June 20, 2018

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Welcoming our first reader from Burma/Myanmar in May, prompted an attempt to find out more about the search for peace in that country.

This picture of a stilt village in Myanmar is the only reference made on this site to several descriptions of social and environmental diversity found online.

Having only received news of the plight of the Rohingya refugees and the condemnation of Aung Suu Kyi’s lack of support for this minority, the writer’s search unveiled a far more complex situation than ongoing news bulletins have indicated.

The Panglong conference of 1947 between the Shan, Kachin and Chin ethnic minority leaders and Aung San, head of the interim Burmese government led to an agreement to join in a union government that would give equal status to all citizens and press for independence.

The term ‘federalism’ was construed by many in Burma as being anti-national, anti-unity and pro-disintegration.

When the non-Burman ethnic groups pressed for autonomy or federalism, as incorporated in the 1947 Constitution, at a time when there was a weak civilian government, the military leadership staged a coup d’état in 1962, moving towards democracy gradually in the 90s.

Following the democratic election of the Thein Sein government in 2010, the government embarked on a series of reforms to direct the country towards liberal democracy, a mixed economy, and reconciliation, includes the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission, the granting of general amnesties for more than 200 political prisoners, new labour laws that permit labour unions and strikes, a relaxation of press censorship, and the regulation of currency practices.

By 2011, the government accepted the concept of federalism, one of the core principles of the ongoing peace process with the country’s ethnic armed groups.

            Map of Myanmar and its divisions, including Shan State, Kachin State, Rakhine State and Karen State.

The government allowed the use and discussion of federalism and the drafting of a Constitution by individual states and regions and international approval included:

• ASEAN’s approval of Myanmar’s bid for the position of ASEAN chair in 2014;
• a visit by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in December 2011 – the first in more than fifty years,
• and the participation of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party in the 2012 by-elections.

However, there were ongoing conflicts in Myanmar:

• The Kachin conflict between the Pro-Christian Kachin Independence Army and the government;
• a civil war between the Rohingya Muslims, and the government and non-government groups in Rakhine State;
• Armed conflict between ethnic Chinese rebels and the Myanmar Armed Forces have resulted in the Kokang offensive in February 2015. The conflict had forced 40,000 to 50,000 civilians to flee their homes and seek shelter on the Chinese side of the border
• a conflict between the Shan, Lahu, and Karen minority groups, and the government in the eastern half of the country.
• A widely publicised Burmese conflict was the 2012 Rakhine State riots, a series of conflicts that primarily involved the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist people and the Rohingya Muslim people in the northern Rakhine State—an estimated 90,000 people were displaced as a result of the riots.

The recent violence in Kachin State, where thousands have been forced from their homes because of renewed fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which has not signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) that was reached under former president and retired army General Thein Sein. And despite this agreement, even groups that signed the deal are regularly having to fend off incursions by government soldiers into their areas.

Armed conflict between ethnic Chinese rebels and the Myanmar Armed Forces led to the Kokang offensive in February 2015. The conflict forced 40,000 to 50,000 civilians to flee their homes and seek shelter on the Chinese side of the border.

The army has stepped up its campaign while global attention focuses on the Rohingya crisis, which has seen some 700,000 people flee to Bangladesh.

General elections in November 2015 gave the National League for Democracy (NLD) an absolute majority in both chambers of the national parliament and Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed that peace with the ethnic minority groups would be her top priority. However, she has not continued with the talks initiated under the previous administration and it is reported that some negotiators who had championed her cause have been sidelined. Ethnic groups now say that the government team charged with finding peace rarely travels to their part of the country to see or hear at first-hand what the issues are.

The Myanmar Government does not include the Rohingya as a Burmese minority group

They are classified as stateless Bengali Muslims from Bangladesh since 1982—on the government’s list of more than 130 ethnic races and, therefore, the government states, they have no claim to Myanmar citizenship.

Wayne Hay reports that in 2012, there was a series of Rakhine State riots, conflicts that involved the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist people and the Rohingya Muslim people in the northern Rakhine State, displacing an estimated 90,000 people.
The Myanmar government’s Nationwide Ceasefire now has eight ethnic armed groups as signatories which could participate in the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference. The third meeting of the conference in the second week of July will discuss fundamental principles on federalism in Myanmar.

The Diplomat reports that the Tatmadaw (Burmese army) continues to insist that there should be a single army under the new federal arrangement. The ethnic armed groups, however, prefer having a federal army, which could allow them to keep their respective armed forces:

“Essentially, the Tatmadaw deems that the ethnic armed groups will be a threat to territorial integrity if they are to retain their weapons and personnel. It is also concerned that the union government would have little authority or control over the regional governments if there is a federal army.

“On the other hand, the ethnic armed groups argue that their forces have to be retained to serve either as a deterring factor or as a counter in the event of unexpected or unprovoked attacks from the Tatmadaw. Any conflict settlement arising from the process will not be sustainable if there is an element of mistrust between the negotiating parties.

“Trust cannot be built if attacks by the Tatmadaw continue alongside the civilian government’s efforts to conduct the peace process. Early this year, the Tatmadaw launched attacks on the Kachin and northern Shan States, triggering renewed clashes with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). The Tatmadaw’s actions also strengthen the case for retaining the ethnic armed forces”.

Serving in the Kachin Independence Army

However, preservation of the union has been a longstanding belief of the Tatmadaw and its uncompromising stance could trigger the ethnic armed groups to maintain arms and continue the fight, providing justification for maintaining military operations against these armed groups.

Eugene Mark, a Senior Analyst with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore, ends:
“Immense challenges lie ahead for the peace process in Myanmar. However, if the peace process is to have any chance of succeeding, one should look at building trust between the Tatmadaw and the ethnic armed groups as the starting point. Perhaps the best solution is for the two sides to listen to each other’s concerns and be ready to compromise in the larger interest of the country.

“Conflicts that are political in nature require political consensus”.

Those who want to read more about Burma’s complex and eventful history during these years, with one ference to CIA/USA intervention, can do on these sites:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panglong_Agreement
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panglong_Conference 47-62
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1962_Burmese_coup_d%27%C3%A9tat 
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-43933332
http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-06/20/c_137267461.htm
https://thediplomat.com/2018/02/myanmars-challenging-path-to-peace/
https://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/asia/2018/05/struggles-myanmar-peace-process-180502064233955.html

 

 

 

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NATO: ensuring stability and security? Or a real barrier to peace?

June 1, 2018

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Dr. Ian Davisnews about the May meeting of the NATO Military Committee in the alliance’s new headquarters in Brussels was followed by Peter Hitchens’ succinct reflection.

Chiefs of Staff discussed proposals that will go to the defence ministers of 29 countries at their NATO meeting in June and ultimately to alliance heads of state/government at the July NATO Summit. The meeting had four key sessions (summarised):

  • A ‘scene-setting’ discussion on the key strategic issues facing the alliance;
  • Security and stability in Europe’s southern neighbourhood, with a focus on instability and conflict in the Middle East, North Africa and the Sahel, as well as the continuing mission in Afghanistan.
  • Enhancing NATO’s deterrence and defence, including NATO-EU cooperation, especially in regard to military mobility, the reinforcement of the alliance maritime posture and the NATO Readiness Action Plan; and
  • Alliance modernisation with a focus on the proposed adapted command structure.

A pdf briefing may be accessed here.

Peter Hitchens writes:  

If NATO was dissolved tomorrow, you’d be amazed how peaceful Europe would become. The reason for its existence – the USSR – vanished decades ago.

We don’t keep up a huge alliance to protect us from the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Ottomans, or any other powers that have disappeared.

So why this one?

It was preserved to save the jobs and pensions of its staff. It was only expanded because American arms manufacturers were afraid they would lose business when the Cold War ended.

So they spent huge piles of cash lobbying the US Senate to back eastward expansion, as the New York Times uncovered.

Having survived and expanded, it needed something to do, and began to infuriate the Russians, and so that is where we now are.

If you look for trouble, you get it. 

SCROLL DOWN TOTHE SECOND ITEM: http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2018/03/peter-hitchens-the-patriotic-thought-police-came-for-corbyn-you-are-next.html

 

 

 

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